Digger: WWII was shocking

National, Normal

The National, Tuesday 21st August, 2012

FROM the moment 22-year-old Australian conscript Ted Bousen arrived at Milne Bay province on Aug 24, 1942, he knew his young life was in jeopardy. The fact became clear shortly after landfall when the Chinese cargo ship, on which he had arrived, the mv Anshun, was flooded with searchlights and Japanese artillery shells began raining on him and his comrades.“There were about a half-dozen of us (on the wharf) and one of the shells landed right next to us,” Bousen, 92, told The Australian newspaper.“Incredibly, it was a dud – it just made a big hole where it came down – and that’s why I’m able to speak to you today.”The scuttled Anshun remained a feature of the bay throughout Bousen’s “horrific” six-month tour there, during which he was responsible for destroying the bodies of slain Japanese marines and laying an anti-personnel minefield – before being forced to dig it back up.“It was bloody shocking,” Bousen said of the experience. “I’m sorry to put it in that language, but it was.”Bousen, now of Brisbane, will return to what is now PNG alongside seven other Australian veterans this week to mark the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Milne Bay, the first Allied land victory against Japan in World War II.The Japanese war machine expected to conquer Allied airfields at Milne Bay quickly and easily, deploying 2,800 marines against what it expected would be a group of Diggers numbering in the hundreds.But military intelligence gave Allied commanders the edge, letting them concentrate nearly 9,000 troops on defending the airbase, including Bousen’s 61st Battalion.
When the Japanese assault came on Aug 31 it was quickly repelled, and Australian Major-Gen Cyril Clowes ordered a fierce counter-attack, including an air campaign with RAAF Kittyhawk fighter bombers.
Bousen said he was ordered to perform a “clean-up”, searching the retreat path for survivors and using petrol to incinerate the putrefying remains of slain Japanese.
“I also had a job at one stage of laying a minefield as a defensive measure.”
“There were no mine detectors back then, so I had to dig through the soil with a bayonet until I reached something hard.” – The Australian